By Maureen Thomson
If you’ve ever thought that incluidng the family dog in your wedding ceremony might be a nice idea but are not sure about how to make it happen, read on.
My husband Jeremy and I live in Colorado and people here are crazy about their hounds! The mountains beckon and you can find happy canines romping year ‘round. A stroll around the Boulder outdoor mall finds many a contented pooch parked under an outdoor table while John and Jill have lunch. Forbes Magazine recently pronounced Colorado Springs as one of the top US cities for dogs and their “doggie guardians.”
As an integral part of the family, Fido will probably receive an invitation to the wedding ceremony. More and more brides and grooms are coming up with ingenious, creative ways to include their canine companions in the wedding ceremony. Dog collars proclaiming “ring bearer” and flower girl”, dog formal wear, and even doggie tiaras are available to dress up Fido for the big day.
But before you go doggone crazy about the idea of your pet struttin’ its stuff down a petal-strewn aisle, there are some things you should consider–not the least of which is the temperament of your pet. Specifically: is the dog calm or hyper? Here are some clues.
- Think about it: when she sees the postman come up your steps, does she cock one eye give a nice woof and wag her tail or does she lunge at the mail slot, stand on hind legs and attempt to strip the wood veneer off the front door with her claws?
- When your iPhone buzzes with a call does she run over and answer it politely or attempt to engorge the device in an angry fit of dominance?
- Does your mother wear an apron when she comes to visit (even though she hasn’t cooked more than a Lean Cuisine since you left home), because it’s a foregone conclusion that your German Shepherd is going to sloppily pounce upon her, firmly planting his front paws on her shoulders while slobbering in ecstasy?
- Does the sight of a bird, squirrel, chipmunk or a piece of flyaway newspaper cause your mongrel to take off at a dead run, pulling along anything and everything in its path?
- When you say “Sit” does he sit as directed or simply turn around and walk away like you’re nothing but a stupid tree-swinging monkey low life?
The answers to these questions will be a good predictor of how well your dog will perform on the big day.
After you’ve had a good think about your canine companion’s true temperament and intentions, you’ll need to solicit the opinion of a reliable third party as a reality check. Be honest now, do you really think you can be objective about your own pet? How many years have you lived together? You’ve probably got more emotional history with your doggie than you do with the person that you’re planning on marrying, so get an unbiased opinion from a reliable third party. (About the dog, not your intended!) Once you and your trusted advisor have concluded that your dog can indeed play a role in the nuptials, here are some tips to ensure a happy outcome for both humans and canines.
- Deputize one of your trusted pals to serve as dog wrangler, escorting said dog down the aisle. Thinking that you can have the groom up front whistle and call “Here Billy, come on buddy!” and have the dog react appropriately is not a well thought out plan. Instead, it’s highly likely that your now thoroughly excited doggie pal will decide that NOW is the absolutely perfect time to head out to the hinterlands in a big hurry, knocking things about and completely removing focus from YOU, your sweetie and the wedding at hand. Eventually your Best Man will tackle the errant beast, but by then his nice black tux will be festooned with white dog hair and he’ll look (and feel like) a complete fool.
- Have the dog make his entrance, be it during the processional or to present the rings, and then allow him to be taken elsewhere for the remainder of the ceremony. Trust me–hanging out while you pledge your vows is not fun for the dog. You want the dog there for the cute factor only–once that moment has passed, it’s over. Give the dog (and you) a break.
- Make sure the dog is well watered and has had a nice snack before the festivities commence. Also a good leg stretch and a visit to the privado will go a long way toward keeping him happy. (The same could also be said for the wedding party withal!)
- If your pup is small, perhaps someone from the wedding party could carry him down the aisle. This prevents a runaway situation and keeps the doggie nice and calm. (Note: Chihuahuas expect to be carried in a ladies’ handbag; they dig it and look very stylish.) I once performed a ceremony where a bridesmaid carried a miniature poodle down the aisle and held it throughout the entire service. It was so quiet, I forgot it was there.
My worst doggie disaster was the Black Lab that had more energy than he knew what to do with. At an outdoor wedding on a mountaintop in Vail, the dog managed to get down the aisle just fine, but the couple had not heeded my advice for a doggie handler (in this case, it would have been a doggie wrangler) and the dog proceeded to prance about the mountainside, barking at and chasing everything that moved. The entire audience was focused on the dog rather than the bride and groom!
I often wonder if that couple is still married.
Maureen Thomson is a wedding officiant and owner of Lyssabeth’s Wedding Officiants, serving California, Colorado and Oregon.
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